Not that long ago, the name Renato Sanches would conjure a negative reaction amongst football supporters, particularly those with loyalties to an English club.
The Portuguese international had a disastrous loan spell with Swansea City during the 2017/18 Premier League season.
It was a nightmare for all involved.
The Swans were relegated to the Championship and haven’t returned to the top tier since. Sanches failed to muster up a single commendable performance and returned to his parent club Bayern Munich as a flop.
Albeit, the youngster struggled with a recurring hamstring issue, that left him ineligible for the entirety of 2018.
But it’s difficult to cut him some slack. Considering he literally passed the ball to the advertisement board off the field during a home defeat to Chelsea in November 2017, believing it to be one of his teammates.
It was a sad fall from grace for a player that won the Young Player of the Tournament, for his key performances during Euro 2016 for Portugal. A competition Sanches and his Portuguese brethren would reign victorious in.
That success capped off a fruitful spell in the midfielder’s career.
Shortly before, Renato Sanches made the move to Munich from Benfica for a cool €35m starting fee. Making him the most expensive Portuguese player to leave the country’s domestic league.
It was certainly an acceptable figure for such an exciting young talent.
Since breaking into the Benfica first team in 2015, he proved himself to be an extremely versatile midfielder, with a knack for passing and an uncanny composure in possession for a then teenager.
Realistically, the move from Benfica to Bayern may have happened prematurely.
Renato Sanches was only 19 years old when the deal went through. With only 35 appearances across all competitions to his name, in what was a Primeira Liga winning season for Benfica.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the player really could’ve done with some extra seasoning, before moving to the German giants.
That was very evident during his time at the Allianz Arena.
Sanches struggled to force his way into the Munich midfield, ahead of more established names like Arturo Vidal, Thiago and Javi Martinez.
In his defence, during his three years at the Bavarian club, Sanches worked under four separate managers in Carlo Ancelotti, Willy Sagnol in a caretaker capacity, Jupp Heynckes and Niko Kovac.
With that sort of revolving door system, it’s easy for a young player to get lost in the shuffle with that lack of consistency. Especially, when you add in the disastrous loan spell mid-way through that period.
The whole ordeal was a complete failure, and in hindsight, Renato’s subsequent move to French side Lille was a blessing.
Loving Life In Lille
Now under the radar in Ligue 1, Renato Sanches has been able to blossom as a footballer. With a real sense of confidence and maturity present in everything that he does.
His energetic and commanding figure made him a vital cog in the Lille system. As they upset all the odds and pipped PSG to the Ligue 1 title last season.
He’s been able to project that run of form back into his international game, during this summer’s European Championship.
While Portugal underwhelmed in the defence of their European champion status, crashing out to Belgium in the Round of 16. The display by Sanches in their final two games added real signs of improvement.
Putting him in ahead of the more defensive minded William Carvalho was an inspired decision by manager, Fernando Santos.
Results to one side, in their two most recent games before exiting Euro 2020. Portugal were far better going forward, with Sanches acting as the midfield anchor for his higher profiled counterparts.
Their retention of possession, passing and general tempo was given a major boost by the inclusion of Sanches in the team.
Despite losing 1-0 to Belgium, that was arguably their best performance of the entire tournament. With them creating copious amounts of chances and controlled large portions of the proceedings, especially in the second half.
Ready For A Big Summer Move?
Sanches now returns to Lille, understandably disappointed with the early boot from Euro 2020. But surely, pleased with his outings when the opportunities presented themselves.
Defending the Ligue 1 crown will be a mammoth task for Lille. With PSG recruiting well in the early goings of the transfer window.
While winning a major European league is nothing to be brushed off. Sanches now looks ready to try his hand at a bigger named club, were silverware and European football is the norm.
He’s been tipped with a return to Bayern Munich, along with linking back up with Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid.
But it would be a crying shame to see him fall down the totem pole at another European juggernaut, after establishing himself as someone ready to fulfil his early potential.
Arsenal are another name linked with the 23-year-old, but Lille can offer him Champions League football, unlike the Gunners.
Fans will always point and laugh at his spell with Swansea, and his struggles with Bayern.
If we’re being honest, he’s a different player from those days. He doesn’t look like the intimidated young man that made 12 Premier League appearances.
He’s still lacking major experience playing in a top European league on a regular basis, with injuries been an issue for Sanches in the past.
Purely speaking in football terms, he’s ready and deserving of another crack in the likes of La Liga, Bundesliga or even the Premier League.
As a player and a person, from the outside looking in, he seems more than capable.